I’ve called my kids banshees a few times as the word is just passing parlance in popular culture. Like hyenas, chickens with their heads cut off, holy terrors or league of demons. I’ve never put the effort into finding out the meaning of the word.
In Irish mythology banshees are wailing female spirits that herald death on a family or community. The etymological definition is literally woman of the fairy mound; bean (woman) + sidhe or shee (fairy mound). The fairy mounds are the population of mounds that riddle the landscape of Ireland. The banshees sing mournful lamentations over the dying.
The Banshees of Inisherin is a quiet, simmering, tale about a pair of lifelong friends that have a break up. One friend is a dim-witted, kind, naive fellow (Pádraic) and the other is a seeking, brooding, fellow in an existential crisis (Colm). There is an age gap between the fellows and Colm dwells in his elder years of life. Colm decides, one day, to end his friendship with Pádraic for the simple reason that he doesn’t like him anymore. Or is it that simple of a reason? Is it, rather, that they will not grow so long as they wallow in this friendship? There are other characters on this Island off the coast of Ireland that weave the thick tapestry of this community. An eager young man (Dominic) who is looking for potential, a pair of gossiping bar mates, Pádraic’s sister (Siobhán) who is being stymied in this dead end town, an abusive policeman and father to the eager young man, an irritable priest, a nosy shopkeeper and a demented, old townswoman who is haunting the townsfolk.
The narrative on friendship is a heartbreaking one. We watch the affable Pádraic be told by his hallowed friend that he no longer likes his friend anymore and we watch Pádraic’s face collapse, muscle by muscle, into shame and hurt. Yet Pádraic keeps hope or, rather, he resists letting his friend go and the movie twists and turns like the stone walls meandering the Irish countryside until, mournfully and decisively, the stone ravages any persisting good feelings between the two pals. Meanwhile on the mainland the Irish Civil War of 1923 is playing out.
Pádraic looks on in the direction of the war and says,
“some things there’s no moving on from, and I think that’s a good thing.”
Is it a declaration that he’ll never stop fixating on his friend? Is it a declaration that he’ll never quit seeking revenge? Is it loyalty to one’s roots despite its demise? Is it a philosophical statement that infighting, despite lapses and interludes, will never stop? And why is that good? Is it our mortal struggle to find purpose, to find home?
This movie was written by playwright Martin McDonagh who wrote In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. In the Roger Ebert review of In Bruges he mentions, “every once in a while you find a film like this, that seems to happen as it goes along, driven by the peculiarities of the characters.” I think that is exactly what is happening in Banshees of Inisherin. The character of each man drives his actions rather than logic. And in a review of Three Billboards there are such observations of McDonagh’s script as, “anger is not treated like something to be cured”, “it is more about cause and effect than crime and resolution”, “allowing almost all of his characters to be deeply flawed”, and “the world is more complex than most movies would have you think”. I think those observations apply here as well. McDonagh does a great job writing dark dramedy’s. I feel like the Irish (and the Russians) are good at that. I laughed consistently through the movie but was equally heartbroken and eager to see the drama to its end. I loved Brendan Gleeson in the 2014 movie he was in called Calvary. Once again, like In Bruges, he pairs with Colin Farrell in this movie.
This movie is unique in that you don’t have the gnawing feeling that the shocking calamity should be further attended to, like “why isn’t anyone asking more questions?”, “where are the police?”, “who is going to intervene?”. Instead, McDonagh let’s the character’s choices just be and it isn’t out of place in this insular community where they all seem stuck and their only future is waiting for some news whether or not the news changes anything. I also don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie about adult friendship break up or certainly not one that is treated with this much thought.
In the final scene Colm is left with his last instrument and like a banshee he sings his lamenting song.
I have regarded Darren Aronofsky as my favorite director for 20 years. He competes in a space that he shares with provocateur directors such as Lars Von Trier and David Lynch but I have an affinity with his films, unlike the others. The first of his films I saw was Pi when I was about 17 years old. It was unlike anything I had seen before. Subliminal glory between the lines of brutalizing flesh. And every film of his after wrestles with threadbare flesh trying to make contact with glory.
His most recent incarnation The Whale grapples with this same universal and persistent question that is the substance of all his films; what is the meaning of all this?
It’s no coincidence that I have such an affinity with an Atheist Jew who can’t resist existential questions that have spiritual overtones. He and I, or at least his art and I, have the same curiosities, wrestle with the same nagging life pangs, both wish for truth to break through the veneer. The caged bird does indeed sing. We’re all caged inside our flesh, our vices, our peccadilloes. The spirit is caged inside the body.
There is a scene when the missionary, Thomas, discovers Charlie’s lover’s Bible and the passage under Roman’s 8:13 is highlighted.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
The Whale is the most acute examination of the body as a cage that Aronofsky has explored to this point. The film is a slow burn. It is quite a passive film compared to Aronofsky’s last film mother! that was frantic chaos. The passivity is purposeful. Charlie puts up no resistance to the fate of each day. He is Superman at weathering blows. The few loved ones in his life, at first sight, are uncomfortably abusive. We, the audience, can’t believe the cruelty.
There is a scene where his estranged daughter manipulates morbidly obese Charlie into getting to his feet and walking to her that reminded me of a perversion of Christ’s walking on water. He ends up crushing the end table under his weight and flopping down into a devastating heap that is utterly heartbreaking. His daughter storms out the door in disgust.
There is another scene where we can infer that his daughter smashed a plate that had food remnants on it that Charlie was using to feed a bird on his window sill, the one creature who gave him comfort. Again, how evil of her. But there is more than first sight with Aronofsky films. We learn through its slow crescendo that the finale to this story is about freeing the caged bird. When that bird feeds at Charlie’s plate each day it grows dependent, it has no desire to explore, it becomes imprisoned in its domestication. The missionary, too, is caged in his assumption that his past is irredeemable. His daughter is caged inside her abandonment. Charlie’s lover is caged inside his religious hypocrisy. Charlie is caged inside his grief.
It was quite a poetic, quite biblical, ending. During the entirety of the story it is downpouring outside. The following is borrowed from Alissa Wilkinson writing for Vox:
“The real apocalypse is happening at Charlie’s house, at least if we take “apocalypse” to mean a moment of revelation. [The GOP primaries of 2016 are playing on tv in which Ted Cruz beats Donald Trump in Idaho where the film is set]. We know — everyone knows — that these are the last days of Charlie’s life. It’s raining continually outside, like a flood is coming. Charlie is obsessed with an essay he keeps reading about Moby-Dick, an apocalyptic book if there ever was one, about a man with an obsession and a death wish. There’s an atmosphere of dread, both of what’s about to happen in Charlie’s house and what’s going on beyond its walls.”
But in the final scenes the clouds break to sunlight. Weight becomes weightless, flesh walks on water and the spirit is freed from the body.
Charlie exclaims near the end that he thinks it’s impossible for people to be completely careless. Implying that our inherent nature, our instincts, care. In a world that so obviously perpetuates bad, is this sentiment true? I’m perplexed by this existential supposition. There is also Charlie’s obsession with honesty. He implores his students and his daughter to write honestly. Despite his own refusal to confront his flesh. It’s another perplexing theme.
But Aronofsky once again succeeds in creating a picture like that of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” in which man is reaching out for the spark of life from God.
What is justice and what tools can we use to achieve it? Understanding justice involves a set of philosophical beliefs about 1. human nature and purpose 2. morality, and 3. practical rationality—how we know things and justify true beliefs. There are 3 sources for truth depending on what school of thought you follow: God (theological worldview), human reason (enlightenment worldview), sentiment-morality (post-modern worldview).
Critical Theory, and the study Critical Race Theory under that school of thought (henceforth CRT), is not only theoretical; it is not just an academic curriculum. CRT is a worldview. Meaning it is an overarching narrative by which we interpret all of reality. ‘Social justice’ or ‘equity’ is used as shorthand to express commitment to critical theory. As we will see, CRT is incompatible with another worldview: Christianity. There are a number of premises that a Christian worldview asserts that I will explain and a number of premises that CRT asserts conversely.
First, Imago Dei. We are primarily made in the image of God. This identity marker underpins all of Christian ethics. Human beings, whether male or female, black or white, young or old, are made in the image of God and thus possess equal value and dignity regardless of race, gender or status. And not only that, the Christian identity is wholly found in God’s definition of us. We do not essentially define who we are. Who we are is designed by His Word and we become who we are meant to be by Him.
“We do not have ultimate self-determination. God decides what is true, not we; God decides what is right, not we; and if we are saved from sin it will be God who saves us, not we ourselves.”
-Theologian John Piper
But CRT posits that there isn’t unity in our humanity. In fact, the expression ‘we’re all human’ is considered covert racism. And, conversely, under CRT, we are not essentially individuals either. Rather, we are united in our self-defined identity groups of those in the margins being oppressed by those who are dominant, those who are supreme. Under CRT, God and His word are not supreme. It is, rather, a people’s will to power that is supreme.
Second, the Bible is God’s Word. Christians believe that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. This is antithesis to the CRT belief in ‘lived experiences’ and personal ‘storytelling’ rather than objective, absolute and authoritative truth. CRT believes that Biblical authority doesn’t exist and that any group whose doctrine dictates human identity and ethics is a power grab to dominate and therefore oppress people. For example, the Bible was only written by men therefore its authority is considered intrinsically oppressive. Under CRT, God and His Word doesn’t define who you are, you do. Through the Bible Christians believe in objective, absolute truth and not moral relativism. Christians do not believe a value or truth claim is intrinsically wrong just because a dominant group holds them. Value claims are intrinsically evil if they rebel against God’s Word.
Third, sin. According to the bible, human beings are united in their rebellion against God. Sin infects us all universally. Every culture comes with particular sinful idolatries. No race or people group is inherently more sinful than others. But if the moral stake is not human beings in rebellion against God but rather identity groups in rebellion against oppressors as CRT posits then it undercuts the primacy of God and our existential relationship with Him. And it undercuts the unity we all have as sin-saturated, fallen, human beings.
As Theologian Tim Keller said, CRT:
“offers a highly self-righteous ‘performative’ identity. The Christian identity is received from God’s gracious hands, not achieved by our actions—we are loved absolutely apart from our performance. Contrarily, this view (CRT) provides two kinds of identity that are highly perfomative: either being a member of an oppressed group fighting for justice or a white anti-racist ally. Both identities—like all other identities not based in Christ—can produce anxiety because of the need to prove oneself sufficiently justice-oriented. The secure identity of Christians does not require shaming, othering, and denouncing (which is always a part of a highly performative identity)”. Keller goes on to say, CRT “sees all injustice as happening on a human level and so demonizes human beings rather than recognizing evil forces–“the world, the flesh, and the devil”–at work through all human life, including your own.”
Fourth, liberation through redemption. CRT believes we have solidarity in our identity groups as they relate to power structures while Christianity believes we have solidarity in redemption as we relate to our Savior. The Bible says that for Christians, the divisions between male and female, Jew and Greek, slave and free are all broken down. These differences are not erased but they are demoted in importance. The good news is all Christians share equal access to God and equal standing before Him regardless of race, gender and status.
Fifth, authority and hierarchy. CRT sees power as intrinsically evil and hierarchy as oppressive but the Bible sees the abuse of power as evil. As for hierarchy, the bible commands us to submit to our parents, to submit to our political leaders, to submit to our church leaders and- ultimately- to submit to God.
CRT has three assumptions that form its worldview:
• self-deification (my sovereign will decides)
• self-determination (I will decide my own truth and my own morality without deference to any authority outside myself because absolute truth is a tool for oppression)
• self-definition (I will define my own essential identity)
With these assumptions each person finds unity in intersectional people groups seeking liberation from dominant authority (oppressors).
Whereas, Christians have these alternate assumptions:
• God is deity (He decides)
• God determines truth and morality
• God defines our essential identity
With these assumptions each person finds unity in our shared humanity, our shared corruption and by our shared redemption through our Savior.
While CRT posits liberation from oppression the bible posits liberation through redemption. While CRT posits liberation from dominant authority the bible posits submission to the ultimate authority. While CRT posits man-made identity. The bible posits God-designed identity. While CRT posits power as the ultimate existential force at work in our lives the bible posits corporate sin, individual sin and demonic sin but also love, humility, graciousness, forgiveness and salvation as the ultimate existential forces at work in our lives.
This is the blunt conclusion. Inside CRT, God is small and negligible.
“Biblical justice is more penetrating in its analysis of the human condition, seeing injustice stemming from a more complex set of causes—social, individual, environmental, spiritual—than any other theory addresses. Biblical justice provides a unique understanding of the character of wealth and ownership that does not fit into either modern categories of capitalism or socialism. Biblical justice has built-in safeguards against domination. As we have seen, to have a coherent theory of justice, there must be the affirmation of moral absolutes that are universal and true for all cultures. Without appealing to some kind of transcendent universal truth and morality, there is no way to further justice. Christianity does not claim to explain all reality. There is an enormous amount of mystery – things we are simply not told. We are not given any ‘theory of everything’ that can explain things in terms of evolutionary biology or social forces. Reality and people are complex and at bottom mysterious. Christianity does not claim that if our agenda is followed most of our problems will be fixed. Meta-narratives have a “we are the Saviors” complex. Christians believe that we can fight for justice in the knowledge that eventually God will put all things right, but until then we can never expect to fully fix the world. Christianity is not utopian. Finally, the storyline of the whole Bible is God’s repeated identification with the wretched, powerless, and marginalized. The central story of the Old Testament is liberation of slaves from captivity. Over and over in the Bible, God’s deliverers are usually racial and social outsiders, people seen to be weak and rejected in the eyes of the power elites of the world.”
-Theologian Tim Keller
Biblical justice includes impartiality or universality. Truth and value applies universally to everyone. CRT inherently does not. Marginalized identity groups are more true and more valuable than dominant identity groups and each marginalized identity group has exclusive access to their own truth that a dominant group is refused access to also known as ‘standpoint epistemology’. Biblical justice includes retribution or punitive punishment and judgement. Because human beings are so valuable, Imago Dei, we are served our just deserts. God’s moral commandments are universally binding on all human beings therefore Biblical justice includes impartial punishment for sin.
Insofar as we accept the claims of Christianity, we’ll have to deny the claims of critical theory. We can’t accept both.
What are some Biblical resources for social justice?
Um, Happy New Year?! Ahem, cough. It feels silly saying it.
What was 2020? It was something with potential in the beginning. It was something to be concerned about in the middle. It was something to suffer from the middle to the end. Now 2021 looms and with fear and trembling we hope for something better. C.S. Lewis writes, in The Problem of Pain, that God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience but shouts to us in our pain. Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
When I wonder why the crises of this year happened to me several things come to mind. First, why not? Why shouldn’t this happen to me or you or anyone? This virus is a force of nature. Death is a force of nature. Pain and suffering is a force of nature. Second, the timing is just coincidental. Had this been spread over a decade I may not have felt so flagellated. Or, is it coincidental? Did all this occur for some purpose? Is God shouting at us in our pain?
I did a poor job suffering. It was completely unfair to be forced out of work. It was frustrating to be ignored by the unemployment insurance agency. It was panicking to not know how long I wouldn’t work. It was enraging to suddenly lose my dad and under Covid restrictions and deprivation. It was reeling to have my mom diagnosed with cancer, break her wrist, discover her lung disease in a matter of a couple months. It was heavy to have another development of crisis; my father in law become critically ill, sedated and intubated, with Covid, transported to a hospital 182 miles away because that was the only open bed for an intubated patient, 40-some days in the hospital. All of this happened in 4 months. And under these 3 crises were other little burdens. My dads estate, his girlfriend, more stints out of work, not seeing eye to eye with friends interpreting the world and the pandemic, the mosh pit that is social media.
The layers of emotion have been depleting. Disbelief, shock, rage, anger, bitterness, depression, recovery. I haven’t only been grieving the death of my dad but also the death we seem to be living in. It has been an unprecedented year when we try to lean on the things that bring comfort and hope. Funerals are taboo, hugging loved ones, taboo, in person church, taboo, a day with girlfriends, taboo, a spa day, taboo, travel, taboo, gathering for holidays, taboo. At least I have this forum of writing. And everyone’s opinions; they are all shouting. The cacophony of voices are noisy. The noise is not helping.
Somehow, in the last month, a perseverance has overcome me. I think it’s reinforced by my being back to work. No matter how much we complain about a work day there is something essential and purposeful about working. But I think this new resolve is also because we have to be over the hump. It has to finally be Thursday right? If it’s Thursday then I don’t want to think about Monday’s complaints anymore. I want to look to the weekend. I want to look to Sunday.
In the spirit of looking into the light let me share some glimmers of life while we all experienced death groans this last year.
My baby, Wyatt, turned one. My eldest, Isla, turned four. I worked on my husbands ancestry lines. I refinished an old solid wood dresser from my husbands childhood. I got to see my out of state sister twice and for extended periods of time. I got to meet friends of my dad I never knew, I got to hear stories about his life. I got to spend a lot of time being my moms caregiver and discussing old stories together. I got to learn a lot about lung disease and cancer. I got to learn a lot about the rare autoimmune disease LEMS and the rare drugs that treat it; Firdapse and Ruzurgi. In fact I got to learn a lot about the rare disease/drug industry; development, competition, the FDA, cost, and loads more. My little ones have done many adorable things that I wish I had written down. Last week Isla used the word “technically” correctly in a sentence. She also told me she saw God (the nativity scene at all the churches). I’ve tried to emulate my kids during this time. There is something so educational and wise about a child’s innocence and ignorance. At their ages they don’t know what despair is yet. 2020 is any old time for them. They laugh and find joy. They don’t pout because of existential dread. They just pout for time with the other’s toy.
I think God is shouting at me to unlearn my self-pity. And perhaps a crises year was the megaphone. When our self-sufficiency is stripped there is still one comfort to lean on; Him.
It’s July 20th, 2020 and I’m trying to think of a word that encompasses what the last 4 months have been like for me, what it’s been like for everyone in their own way. I haven’t met a person yet that hasn’t had to ride the pandemic wave (or is it a burn?) without some other personal deprivation taking passenger seat in this wreck. Whether it’s not being able to gather for worship or participate in the sacrament of Eucharist, having to postpone your scheduled wedding, having the unmediated care removed from your prenatal care and birth, not being able to have the support of family after suffering a heart attack.
Demon. Maybe that’s the word.
On March 16th I had been back to work for 9 months since giving birth to my son Wyatt and taking maternity leave. 2019 saw a financial setback since I don’t get paid leave but we planned for it so we would be ok with one lagging year. By the beginning of March the US had been growing worried about the coronavirus Covid-19. It had swept China, Italy, more of Europe and was starting to become a tenable fear. March 11th WHO declared Covid a pandemic. March 16th Governor Walz (and Governors of all the other states) announced the closure of 11% of the labor force in Minnesota. In two weeks a record one-third of a million workers filed for unemployment insurance. When I went to work that Monday the language was unclear and I still didn’t know whether my industry was supposed to be furloughed. At 8 pm that night I received word that I am not allowed to go to work anymore. The furlough was in effect until March 27th. I had to scramble to get my personal belongings from my workplace. How was I going to pay for daycare? How could I take my kids out and maintain their spot? It was a two week increment that left things unsteady and unknown, not enough time to make any big decisions because potentially I was back to work March 30th. Little did I know these small increments would expand to just less than 3 months. I immediately applied for UI. I had worked since I was 15 and had never been on UI before. I was a novice. Turns out I ticked a wrong box and was sent into an administrative Bermuda triangle. I was told my employers HR could not help me. I called the UI phone number relentlessly. At this point I have my kids home with me, I took them out of daycare as we all got our bearings. I’ll never forget those phone calls to UI. I would be on hold for 3 hours everyday only to have my call disconnected. My 3 and 1 year olds would be tearing into something or getting hurt or screaming or crying while I’m waiting to have word about the money that will pay our bills which is less than half of ones income if you didn’t know. For 17 days my UI was stalled. I didn’t know if it would ever come. I was hurtling, sanity first, into despair. I could not believe what was yanked out from under me and was still learning what the potency of this virus is. I was a puddle of mixed emotions. Disbelief, despair, fear, anger and I was forced to depend on an institution that was unreachable, that doesn’t know me, for whom I am an abstraction, a number, a case. I’m not even the worst of it though. In Washington State my sister was denied UI for 8 weeks. You see, out there they paid out $650 million in fraud to hackers armed with people’s data from previous breaches. In order to rein in the deficit they halted all eligible claims, income that people desperately needed NOW. It was starting to feel like we’re a cat’s plaything. To their credit, I can’t imagine being the “one in charge” of all of this. Obviously no choices were easy and that’s simply what they were, choices. Choices based on the expert’s best predictions and guesses. I studied the experts findings too. After all, these guys were informing the policy makers. I subscribed to podcasts, I would spend 6 hours a day watching the news, I logged into CIDRAP to study the studies. This is what led to the country boiling over, the experts didn’t agree. Dr. Osterholm disagreed with his colleagues at WHO and the CDC had a different opinion than Osterholm and…Fauci…well, the opinion was evolving and the evolution was impacting peoples lives in substantive ways. Osterholm admits that there is still so much they don’t know about Covid-19. He also admits that the policy makers have to consider the culture with which they’re imposing restrictions. What type of mores and expectations do Americans have? He also admits he saw his grandkids for Fathers Day.
This last point makes me feel really slighted. The last time I saw my dad was Christmas and I regret never getting a picture of him with 9 month old Wyatt. In fact I never got a picture of him with Wyatt at all. I thought I had time.
I didn’t get to see my dad in March for Wyatt’s first birthday because of Covid. I didn’t get to see my dad for Fathers Day because of Covid. I didn’t get to see my dad at the hospital in May after a heart attack because of Covid. I didn’t get to see my dad at home while he was, as I was told, recovering because of Covid. Then in June my mom is hospitalized and I don’t get to support her at the hospital because of Covid. Both my parents NEED advocates. The telephone game is not enough.
I thought my dad was recovering and he was actually dying.
I desperately wanted to see him but was told it is too risky because of Covid. I wish I would have trusted my gut and saw him anyway. My sister from Washington State had come in town to help care for our mom and she made a date to see my dad on Saturday July 11th. I have to admit I was jealous. I had wanted so badly to visit him during this Covid-demon. During their lunch he was in a real bad way. He struggled to catch his breath, he was literally freezing to death. On the drive home he died in the car. The day I was told the news of his passing, I had been running through the sprinkler with my kids and we were just putting kabobs on the grill. At least during the pandemic-demon there was summer and outside. While I was running through a sprinkler my dad was in the throes of losing his life. I got the phone call and was in disbelief again. Four months ago it was the loss of my livelihood. Now it’s the loss of my dad. I picked up my sister and drove an hour up to Cambridge, MN to view him one last time, to view him for the first time since Christmas. He was lying on a hospital bed with his feet relaxed to the side, shoes still on. I scooted a chair across the floor to his bedside and told myself “shh”, he’s only sleeping right? Overwhelming disbelief. I took my mask off and looked down on his face. The Covid-demon didn’t matter anymore. It had infected my life without infecting me and now he’s gone. Not from Covid but from regular sicknesses that have been taking people’s lives since the beginning of time. Death is a sure thing that no amount of safety will prevent. Safety may flatten the curve but what it did for me was keep me from the things I call life. It kept me from doing what I know in my heart is best. We’re all trying to do what is best for each of us and that is an individual thing. Someone else’s Covid story involves losing their dad to the devastating effects of Covid itself. Ironically my dad didn’t die of Covid but he died gasping for breath nonetheless.
Covid didn’t take time off even after my dads death. We were told by the funeral director that we could not publish the date and time of his memorial service for fear of attracting a large number of loved ones which would make impossible social distancing. We had seen a very large, public, indoor funeral for a person that lost his life on May 25th, hundreds, thousands in attendance, and I wondered doesn’t my dad who is also a valuable child of God deserve a memorial with ALL his loved ones who wish to be there? In our grief we pressed our foot down and the funeral home relented. His memorial took place in the Rice St. neighborhood he had carved a life in and at the church he went to school. During the Lords Prayer, with the doors open in the back on a hot sunny day, his biker buddy cranked the throttle on his Harley Davidson and I literally imagined my dad’s soul joining his Maker on the highway to heaven. The day moved me. You always imagine how losing someone will affect you, at least I do, but it’s out of your control. My body just wept and I couldn’t stop it. I think it was the mounting pressures and mixed emotions these last four months had burdened me with. This force, like a herd of bison, trampled over me. It had tarnished friendships, it had deflated my spirit, it had made me question how courageous would I be if everything was taken from me? Would my gaze be toward the Lord? This Covid-demon had shone me for who I really am.
By weak I mean I have the same nature affliction that John Piper describes going to battle with here. Selfishness, self-pity, blame, anger and sullenness. The Covid deprivation made me realize how dependent I am on the things of this world. Niceties, comforts, property, ownership, self-sovereignty, freedom, the company of other people. And how much I failed to lean into the cross. For too long, deprivation ruined me, reduced me, and laid bare my faults. And this was just the deprivation of American freedoms. What if it wasn’t just a deprivation but a brutality? What if I was a number in a concentration camp? Oh how weak I’d be! My mind knows that the things of this world are temporal but my desires cling to them as if life itself is only the things of this world. But life is full of the glories of God. Glory that is attainable even in earthly deprivation. With the loss of my dad under the banner of Covid I am going to battle with my faults again, may my soul prevail over my flesh.
When I think of everything my dad had lived through in his life from 1939-2020 I imagine all the major challenges and frights and losses he had and yet he never despaired. He seized the day as the old trope says. He really did.
May God equip me with courage, resilience and hope when everything is taken from us except our life and even when that last vestige of property is taken from us as well may we find peace in knowing we have our eternal Father who breathed into us the breath of life, found value in our existence and welcomes us back home.
One last immortal post script for my father:
My dad, Dale, was 42 when I was born, the last chance for a boy out of a handful of girls. God gave him one more girl- Teresa Dale. For the formative part of my life he was an excellent provider. Oil changes, boot-strap perseverance, livelihood for the family, a strong blue collar work ethic. I love him for that. But for the last decade he let us glimpse his vulnerability, hugs and “I love you’s” became important, timely. He’s always been so strong but this was a new strength- tenderness, graciousness, calm. The kind of resolve a man gets when he’s focusing his life on what matters. What it made clear to me is that I was just getting to know him. All his life his animated stories had outsized him and now I was meeting the man the legends are about. A man of nine lives. A man who should have written a book. A person, a soul. A father who always loved his daughters, even that one four decades younger than him. A man who dedicated himself to the honor of those he loved. A man who loved life.
He was proud of us four strong women, all girls, which is just what he needed. And even though I was just getting to know him I am assured that he lived a full life and that he loved us.
I’m going to make a case as to how the death penalty is the only moral response to certain highhanded crimes, how the death penalty upholds human dignity and how the death penalty is indeed prolife.
It is thought by the anti folks that punishing a deserving man with the death penalty is mere revenge and therefore cruel but a man, even a criminal, has a right to his just deserts, no more, no less. When the punishment doesn’t fit the crime then the criminal in a mere subject that the justice system tinkers with in its own subjective pursuit. As C.S. Lewis says, this humanitarian theory removes from punishment the concept of desert and the concept of desert is the only connecting link between punishment and justice. It is only as deserved or undeserved that a punishment can be just or unjust.
Next I will enumerate popular arguments and rebuttals to those arguments.
The Risk Of Executing The Innocent
Imprisoning innocent people is also wrong, but we cannot empty the prisons because of that minimal risk. If improvements are needed in the system of representation, or in the use of scientific evidence such as DNA testing, then those reforms should be instituted. However, the need for reform is not a reason to abolish the death penalty. Besides, many of the claims of innocence by those who have been released from death row are actually based on legal technicalities. Just because someone’s conviction is overturned years later and the prosecutor decides not to retry him, does not mean he is actually innocent. If it can be shown that someone is innocent, surely a governor would grant clemency and spare the person. Given our thorough system of appeals through numerous state and federal courts, the execution of an innocent individual today is almost impossible. Our present system of capital punishment limits the ultimate penalty to certain specifically defined crimes and even then, permits the penalty of death only when the jury finds that the aggravating circumstances in the case outweigh all mitigating circumstances. The system further provides judicial review of capital cases. Finally, before capital sentences are carried out, the governor or other executive official will review the sentence to insure that it is a just one, a determination that undoubtedly considers the evidence of the condemned defendant’s guilt. Once all of those decision makers have agreed that a death sentence is appropriate, innocent lives would be lost from failure to impose the sentence. Capital sentences, when carried out, save innocent lives by permanently incapacitating murderers. Some persons who commit capital homicide will slay other innocent persons if given the opportunity to do so. The death penalty is the most effective means of preventing such killers from repeating their crimes. The next most serious penalty, life imprisonment without possibility of parole, prevents murderers from committing some crimes but does not prevent them from murdering in prison.
The mistaken release of guilty murderers should be of far greater concern than the speculative and virtually nonexistent risk of the mistaken execution of an innocent person.
The Death Penalty Is Racist And Is Applied Arbitrarily
While it is true that it is mostly white victims that place murderers on death row (75% of death row inmates killed a white victim). More whites than blacks are executed (56% whites, 34% blacks). While most murderer-victim pairings are same race, whites kill whites, blacks kill blacks, white victims will land a murderer on death row more often than black victims even though 52% of homicides are black victims and 43% of homicides are white victims. It’s also evident that sentencing is arbitrarily handed down. Meaning one case will get the death penalty and a seemingly similar case will get life in prison. The overarching thesis is that the application of the death penalty is unfair.
Discretion has always been an essential part of our system of justice. No one expects the prosecutor to pursue every possible offense or punishment, nor do we expect the same sentence to be imposed just because two crimes appear similar. Each crime is unique, both because the circumstances of each victim are different and because each defendant is different. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a mandatory death penalty, which applied to everyone convicted of first-degree murder, would be unconstitutional. Hence, we must give prosecutors and juries some discretion. In practice, the death penalty does not single out the worst offenders. Rather, it selects an arbitrary group based on such irrational factors as the quality of the defense counsel, the county in which the crime was committed, or the race of the defendant or victim. Almost all defendants facing the death penalty cannot afford their own attorney. Hence, they are dependent on the quality of the lawyers assigned by the state, many of whom lack experience in capital cases or are so underpaid that they fail to investigate the case properly. A poorly represented defendant is much more likely to be convicted and given a death sentence. Even if the death penalty punishes some while sparing others, it does not follow that everyone should be spared. The guilty should still be punished appropriately, even if some do escape proper punishment unfairly. The death penalty should apply to killers of black people as well as to killers of whites. High paid, skillful lawyers should not be able to get some defendants off on technicalities. The existence of some systemic problems is no reason to abandon the whole death penalty system. After all there are systemic problems with imprisoning people as well. Should we empty the prisons? No. We maintain a justice system even while there are systemic flaws.
It Should Not Be Within Mans Power To Take A Life
Why should it be within mans power to mandate life imprisonment? Or mandate treatment? Or mandate anything?
Victims have the right to punish wrongdoers and the reasons for creating a state include reasons for potential victims to transfer that right to the state and avoid the chaos and vengeance of vigilante justice. After all, retributive justice is not revenge because it hands a criminal his just deserts whereas revenge, propelled by emotion, is not concerned with giving a criminal no more than what is just, revenge is concerned with satisfying the rage.
Because we have a system of justice in our society that is based on the inalienable view that all people are made in the image of God and endowed with human dignity we correct misbalances and it is right to do so as long as the punishment matches the crime.
When someone takes a life, the balance of justice is disturbed. Unless that balance is restored, society succumbs to a rule of violence. Only the taking of the murderer’s life restores the balance and allows society to show convincingly that murder is an intolerable crime that will be punished in kind. For the most cruel and heinous crimes, the ones for which the death penalty is applied, offenders deserve the worst punishment under our system of law, and that is the death penalty. Any lesser punishment would undermine the value society places on protecting lives and life in general.
In 2011 Anders Breivik killed 77 people, mostly children, the largest mass shooting in modern history. He was deemed sane and sentenced to serve 21 years in prison “in a three-cell suite of rooms equipped with exercise equipment, a television and a laptop.” That’s 100 days of posh prison time for each person he murdered, with a legal release possible at age 53. After his 21-year smack-on-the-hand for killing 77 people, Breivik could be kept there indefinitely by judges adding a succession of five-year extensions. This is thought of as the more humane punishment for murderers in contrast to the US whose criminal justice system is thought of as “cruelly punitive”.
What’s ironic is that Norway’s humanitarian theory iscruel and unusual because it removes just deserts from punishment and imposes therapeutic means of punishment that is subjectively devised and handed down. If it’s up to judge’s subjective therapy then should it not be in the hands of experts? After all we’re talking about prescriptions, not just deserts. The Humanitarian theory, then, removes sentences from the hands of jurists whom the public conscience is entitled to criticize and places them in the hands of technical experts whose special sciences do not even employ such categories as rights or justice. If a criminal’s sentence does not have to accord with what he deserves, it does not have to be just. At that point we are all at the mercy of those who are in power to call anything we do a crime and give it any therapeutic or remedial solution they choose, including gas chambers and medical alterations.
At each appeal Breivik will be assessed by a panel that will take no note of just deserts, they will solely ponder him- is he remorseful, is he rehabilitated, is he no longer a threat? 77 dead children won’t even exist in the periphery, only two subjects- the moods of the panel and the sales pitch of the murderer.
Wrongdoers have a “right to be punished” such that not punishing them with just deserts wrongs them. What is meant is that wrongdoers have the right to be treated as the kind of being who can be held responsible and punished, rather than as sick or dangerous beasts. It is more respectful of normal humans to treat them as beings with the kind of dignity that comes with being responsible for their choices than not. Treating normal humans as merely more or less dangerous animals, whose behavior can hopefully be modified with threats and rewards is to over-extend the medical model. The medical model should be applied only to those whose mental capacities are distinctly sub-normal. Which speaks to the therapeutic sentence. Retributive justice maintains the dignity of the wrongdoer whereas therapeutic sentencing (sentencing concerned with rehabilitation or deterrence and not just deserts) treats the wrongdoer as sub-human. It is exactly because he is a human being with dignity, with all his faculties, who chose an evil act by free will that restoration should be just deserts.
Retributive justice is the only objective (because it is exactly what he deserves, no more, no less), humane (because it maintains his dignity as a human being with faculties of free will and reason) and prolife (because it treats life as valuable and profoundly worth protecting) sentence of justice there is.
These are the must-haves and the didn’t-need essentials when you’re expecting your first baby. Of course it’s my opinion within the context of my own experience. Every baby is an individual person with different needs and wants. But I still think it’s a pretty universal starter kit from someone who had thoroughly researched baby items and scoured other blog lists on the internet only to find items I never needed 6 months into my first baby’s life. Now I’m on my second baby- a 3 month old- and, though they’re very different babies, the items that were useful still are and luckily I can reuse what I had. What a savings! Here’s the list:
Rock and Play (I needed this with Isla, my first, but not with Wyatt, my second. With him we put him in the crib for sleeping but for her she spent a good deal of time sleeping in this next to our bed. I think she needed the rocking feature more than he.)
Diaper pail and refill bags
Formula (start with a small sample to see which brands and kinds they like. My daughter liked Enfamil Gentle Ease and my son likes Similac Pro Advance. With both my kids I never produced enough milk so I had to supplement with formula.)
Baby swing (We bought the 4moms swing and have hated it from day one. It starts knocking and bucking when the baby moves so I would do something like the link this time.)
Newborn antiscratch mittens and the size up in case your baby is big. By 2 months you don’t need those anymore.
Bottles with various nipple sizes and ounces (nipple: NB, 1, 2, 3)
Baby carrier (I didn’t care for the Boba fabric ones. I felt like the baby was falling down.)
exersaucer (they love these when their core strength appears around 5 or 6 months)
Things that were useless:
Nursing pads (but I didn’t produce much milk)
Baby powder (Advised not to use by pediatrics now.)
Hoodies and t-shirts (Hoods get in the way and t-shirts ride up.)
Boppy (Although this did come in handy for my broken tailbone so maybe get one just in case.)
Rubber duck that reads bath temp. Just use your wrist.
A bunch of bath toys. Isla plays with 3 things.
I barely used our porta crib. Don’t get a fancy one. Just a container for sleeping is all that’s necessary not the mobiles and changing stations and infant convertible stuff.
A pacifier (neither of my kids used them)
Stuffed animals. Isla just started carrying those around at 2 years old.
Also, things you’ll want for yourself:
Lavender Epsom salts (a few bags because you put a whole cup of them in the bath for sitz baths that your OB will want you to take 3 times a day. How on earth will you find time? I have no idea! I was lucky to do once a day. Another tip: no more than 15 minutes in a sitz bath each time. You do not want your stitches to fail like I experienced.)
Maternity lounge pants (black) and maternity tank tops, a sweater, flip flops, maternity underwear (Black. Those mesh panties they give you are a joke. You can use your own underwear.) for the hospital.
Miralax (Colace did nothing for me and you do not want hard stool.)
I hope this was helpful and just remember that these items just make parenthood more convenient but they shouldn’t be intimidating or overwhelming. And also, babies are just the best!
The Associated Press published this article on the treatment of migrant children in the US.
These are the conditions in Honduras.
It is a criminal offense for individuals or media to engage in terrorism but the definition of terrorism is so broad that it includes peaceful protests.
A cyber security bill severely harms free speech by compelling companies that provide internet to censor content.
Security forces have opened fire on protesters demonstrating against voting corruption which has resulted in deaths.
3/4 of the 10,000 unit police force is corrupt, involved in embezzlement and organized crime.
Judges are not independent and face interference from the executive branch.
There is a dysfunctional justice system and low prosecution rates.
Honduras has the highest murder rate for a country not at war.
The current President doctored the constitution to allow for a second term causing a flash of protests.
Honduran citizens have no physical security, property rights, independent judiciary, political stability, rule of law, or functioning civil society. Similarly Guatemala doesn’t have these. Many factors in their history have contributed to the current condition of the northern triangle nations (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) such as foreign fruit tycoons exploiting workers, the local government seizing private farmland to sell off to fruit tycoon operations, dependency on one cash crop for economic sustenance (banana republic), severe crop blight that ravaged the economy, war, political revolutions, coups, Soviet-backed dictatorships, US disinterest in the region following the Cold War, inability to bounce back from these devastations. Simply put, they have a very poor people, very corrupt authorities and very criminal gangs.
So there is a humanitarian crisis in the region and many people are risking their lives to trek 1,000 miles with the intent of entering the US illegally, in fact half of migrants entered the US illegally in 2015.
Then there are pro-immigration advocacy groups who organize, orchestrate and coach migrants who are headed to the US-Mexico border. Instead of saying you’re coming to the US to work you should say you’re coming to the US because you’re fleeing persecution. In most cases that’s true. But it colors their migration with a belief that America is an open border nation when in fact we’re not. There is a rule of law migrants must adhere to, an immigration process. The destabilized nature of Central America is a deeply complex situation that has no simple fix. So migrants will keep coming. It’s not extraordinary for the US to want to guard its border, its resources and its people from the influx of a destitute people fleeing a destitute country. That’s a geopolitical statement.
Then there is the ethical sphere of the crisis. For the migrants that are here, what do we do about them? The US has a reputation that we adhere to, an ethical standard to treat people in a way that honors their civil rights and human dignity. Especially the most vulnerable; children. Does that apply to illegal immigrants? I’m not asking a legal question. I’m asking an ethical question. My opinion is yes. Especially children. Well that requires infrastructure spending to the tune of billions of dollars ($6 billion is one figure I read) to create medical facilities that languishing migrants are sent to so that they are removed from mere processing centers and detention facilities and treated humanely. We currently don’t have the infrastructure to be caregivers for migrants. The infrastructure we do have is for immigration processing but even that is not sufficient or efficient. There needs to be more immigration judges at the border streamlining immigration processes. There needs to be better communication within the levels of bureaucracy. There needs to be a reexamination of our refugee policy. When it’s an ethical question, we’re talking about throwing a lot of money and hands at the problem. Migrants depend on this inclination we have. They assume or at least hope that we overlook the criminal entrance for the sake of being humane. That’s a breathtaking undertaking though. How does a nation, even the most wealthy nation, be a guardian for all the destitute people of the world? How about just those on our doorstep? If I’m known as the lady who will always take in kittens the boxes of kittens on my doorstep will keep growing until I am maxed out.
Because the political stability remains rancid in the northern triangle, the ethical response will, ad infinitum, be exhausted. And everyone has an opinion to throw at it but what’s the solution? What’s for sure is the whole problem is devastating and emblematic of our existential fallenness. I think all US citizens have their heartstrings pulled for migrant children. A two year old put at risk by somebody (parents?!), but the risk they’re leaving is bigger than the risk they’re taking so he’s sent across a thousand miles, emaciated and sick he shows up at a US border facility that is a processing center, not a medical center, we have no border infrastructure to be his caregiver, in desperation he’s put in another older child’s care, agents scramble to find clean diapers for him (yes I’m willing to assume with confidence that the border agents are not sinister), fellow migrants try to convince him he can trust a shower. It’s all so devastating. And then the next month thousands more begin a caravan.
The problem is huge, there’s no simple solution and I don’t know where to begin. I think that’s where the forces that be find themselves too.
I wrote a dedication to our daughter, your sister Isla, when I was 27-weeks pregnant and now I’m 27-weeks pregnant with you and I want to write an address but I have so many fears linked to your sex. At our 14-week ultrasound we learned that you are a boy. At the 20-week ultrasound it was confirmed that you are a boy. Ultrasounds can be wrong so we will have a girl and boy name ready at birth but…It’s A Boy! This news was an acclimation. We already have a girl, whom we are familiar with and, well, why rock the boat? I grew up with sisters and we are a female dominated family. It’s what I know. Your father grew up with all brothers and the stories of his youth are rebellious. Is this rebellion your fate? I hope for a rebellion of a different kind; a revival!
All individuals are different so our boat will be capsized and we will either sink or swim, probably both in different seasons. I get wrecked with worry concentrating too much on my earthly efforts as your mother and the presumption that you will fall in line with cultural stereotypes, stereotypes that I have experienced personally. I worry that if I miss this lesson or that bad-influence friend I’ll lose you but… I never had you. Firstly, you’re God’s. Secondly, you’re yours. Mine you never are from beginning to end. Yet I will pour forth my heart for you and hope that you return the love. There is a duality that exists within parenthood. I am free from guilt because you are a soul, a body, a consciousness, and a conscience apart from me yet I am accountable for your direction. Not only me, your father too. Two floundering swimmers lost at sea. Two pitifully fallible people and the pressure is on to produce an upstanding progeny. Lord help us.
Who will you be? How will you hurt yourself, be hurt and hurt others? Will you be reckless, careless and danger attracted? These stereotypes scare me. Will you set sail into adulthood never bearing in mind to look back in my direction? You’ll be busy. Or worse, will you become lazy and indifferent? I remind myself I don’t have to worry so. You are not mine. But I will have to tread those turbulent waters. The current will be framed by your biological sex. How much you fall in line with stereotypical trends will be up to your spirit wrangling your nature. How hard you’ll have to fight and how strenuous your uphill climb will depend on those very unequal attributes you were given anatomically. Your nature will attract you to choices, what choice will you make? The man you’ll be, the spouse you’ll be, the neighbor you’ll be, and the son you’ll be is your pursuit. Even as I speak of who you will become, it’s never fixed. You will choose anew every day and every season. Will you choose the light or the dark? I hope the attractiveness of the light outshines the dark.
It’s providential that I’m having these anxieties in the Christmas season. As the Maker would have it there is a baby boy who, as a man, saved us sons and daughters. Christmas is the commencement of a life that will include deep suffering. In that image we, too, suffer but that suffering is followed by glory:
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” -2 Corinthians 4:8-9
Our suffering: “is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4: 17-18
So there is a boy that brings good news and I am pregnant with a boy who brings…who knows, but I’ve decided I’m joyful it’s a boy. I will joyfully receive this baby boy just as we receive Christmas.
Like our daughter, I will look forward to the reward of that first smile, the month when you can sit up, the month when you can walk and the most rewarding so far; the months when you start talking. “I wuv you!” There is grace out there; hugs, kisses, laughter, funny moments, the brightness in a child’s eyes, even just holding hands. We are not alone son; that is our mercy. For, He rules the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, He stills them.
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God
The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am
Have you ever been hurt so badly that forgiveness seems like a contemptible commandment? Of course you have! Haven’t we all?! And even if your personal life has squeaked by largely unscathed there is the horror of the Holocaust that makes us remember. There is pain, misery, evil and death out there. Even in your home those things reside, rearing their head between moments of joy or peace, like a whack-a-mole. Can’t I just whack that thing once and for all? Do you find your exhaustion and your resentment festering until it becomes as C.S. Lewis describes- “a black we wish was blacker”? In other words, if you found out that some indicting point of view you have about someone is untrue would your reaction be ‘phew, he is not as bad as I thought’ or steadfastness in your indignation that your hatred has to be well founded? Aren’t we all guilty of the latter? We want people to be as guilty as our feelings sentence them with. But the former is the type of love forgiveness is rooted in.
Lewis thought Chastity was the most unpopular virtue. That is, until Forgiveness. We are called to love our neighbor as ourself but within that paradigm is your enemy. If everyone around you are idiots or more nefariously, corrupt, how can you love them? What does that look like?
Here is what forgiveness is not. It is not feeling fondly for the person. It is not finding them attractive. It is not thinking them nice when they have not been.
“This is an enormous relief. For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making them out that they are not really such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain that they are.” –C.S. Lewis
Forgiveness does not reduce the hatred we feel for the wretchedness of the wrongdoing. We ought to hate it. It does not mean that the subject of the wretched act ought not be punished. Punishments and governing authorities are anointed to administer earthly justice. Deserved punishment is a wrongdoer’s right as a human being. Because we are ‘selves’ or self conscious sentient beings or made in the image of God (whichever way you want to put it), because we have that level of dignity above all other creatures and life forms on the planet is why just deserts matter. Forgiveness doesn’t negate retributive justice. So, depending on the trespass, jail or prison or death may be necessary. For the Gestapo this is necessary. But even in the execution of the punishment we should, as Lewis says, “feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves- to wish that they were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good.”
What does forgiveness look like for a spouse, friend or family member who hurt us personally? It means loving someone who is sometimes unlovable. But then, are you yourself ever unlovable? Yes. We all are. Whether it’s that I must always be right or that I mentally reduce my loved ones to fools when their interests or idiosyncrasies or delights seem below me. Whether it’s having unreasonable standards or being perfectionist. Whether it’s glossing over my own wretchedness to go out of my way in pointing out theirs. Whether it’s my impatience, my intolerance, my misunderstanding, my anger, my rudeness, my frustration: MY EGO, these all make me deplorably unlovable. Even in my ‘noble’ hope that my loved one be cured of their unlovable affliction, which is an aspect of holy forgiveness (we are called to approach forgiveness with hope for redemption) we still miss the mark with this focus. Even reading this essay you have someone else in mind. You’re thinking of someone who may or may not deserve your forgiveness. Which leads us to what forgiveness IS.
Lewis sums it up so well here:
“For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life- namely myself. However much I dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”
Isn’t that sharp?! There is someone in this universe that you always go out of your way to forgive. Yourself. When you’ve done something awful (and you have! We all have.) how long does it take you to forgive yourself, an hour, a day, maybe for the more brooding personality a month? Then you carry on enjoying your own company and finding yourself quite worthy and deserving of good things. That is what forgiveness looks like. But what forgiveness is is this: love your neighbor as yourself. It’s a challenging call because ‘our self’ is our constitution that we’re stuck with, that we can’t be rid of, that we can’t abandon so forgiving it is not only built in but necessary. Another’s self isn’t lodged in our being. We can abandon it. But how much more selfless and good and glorious is it to choose to love an abandonable person than the automatic and choiceless act of loving ourself? You would wish your loved one would choose love for you. Through your wretchedness, your guilt, your sorrow you wish for forgiveness and love from them.
So do they from you.
Forgiveness says, you have done an evil thing; nevertheless, I will not hold it against you. I love you.
This is why forgiveness is unpopular, radical and HARD. But for ourselves it is simple. We should extend the generosity we give ourselves to other people. That is love.
To love is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully in your hobbies and your vices, avoid all entanglements, lock it up safely in the coffin of your selfishness. But in the coffin- safe, dark, motionless, airless- it will change. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to heartbreak isn’t safety, it’s damnation. The only place you can be free from the danger of love is Hell.